One of the fastest rising prospects in the UK scene, Cal “Pacino” Ellenor (6-1) is on the heels of breaking into the international market, with continued interest from Bellator alongside other European opportunities.
However, rather than stick to the regional circuit, Cal has travelled across the world, competing in South Africa’s Extreme Fighting Championship in an attempt to diversify his fanbase.
With lightning-fast hands, stoppages in every one of his victories and the character to compliment his combat, Cal is on the fast track to the top and on March 31st, he continues the climb against Faeez Jacobs at EFC Worldwide 68.
Ahead of this clash, Ellenor took some time out of his training to talk to Gary Friel of MMAUK.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Cal.
You started in amateur boxing, having moderate success at a young age. Did this experience benefit your mixed martial arts training and is this a path you’d ever be interested in experimenting with again?
I believe my early success in boxing definitely helped my overall martial arts game. I feel my boxing style is a style that fits into MMA well. Having 26 fights before I even started MMA definitely helps me with my awareness in a fight and my overall sense in action. I do sometimes think coming from a boxing background can be a bad move for fighters wanting to transition over into MMA. It’s all down to styles and certain styles don’t work as well as others. Sometimes people can’t adapt and make changes to suit their game in MMA and struggle. Whereas in my situation, I feel like it definitely came as an advantage. Aside from my MMA regime, I regularly train my boxing and regularly just boxing spar. I could maybe be interested if the right fight was ever offered to me, and it was a big opportunity or big purse. My goals and ambitions are all held in MMA though and I feel that preparing for a fight in boxing would take away my attention and I want to keep moving forward and stay busy in martial arts.
What’s your earliest memory of mixed martial arts, and is there anything that specifically inspired you to enter the sport?
My earliest memory of martial arts probably came when I was very young, watching movies and Power Rangers, and I always wanted to fight. I joined a karate club at a young age but the gi I had didn’t have a sash and the whole sessions were spent me trying to copy all of the techniques whilst holding my trousers up that kept falling down and. I eventually got sick of it and stopped training haha. I always remember feeling embarrassed about my gi pants falling down a lot of the time. Aside from that, my dad used to always watch early UFC videos on TV and I would sometimes get to watch some of them with him. It caught my attention from a young age. I would watch boxing fights on TV and the whole idea of fighting in general really interested me. I got myself a punchbag and it was up in my room in the loft for years growing up, until I eventually joined a boxing gym.
You competed in Absolute Championship Berkut in 2017, winning by submission in the first round. Were there any discussions about you signing an extended contract with the promotion?
Yes, that’s correct, I fought on ACB in March 2017. I had a really fun fight with Dec Williams and won by RNC in the first round. There was no offer of a contract or anything, it was just a one fight deal. I would have happily signed with them at that time though, 100%. ACB is a great organisation and I believe they are running things really well and I look forward to the possibility of competing on their shows again.
Your next fight is against Faeez Jacobs at EFC Worldwide 68. What do you know about your opponent and are there any challenges you expect to face?
My next opponent, Faeez Jacobs, is a rangy striker. He likes to press forward and is quite unpredictable. I don’t particularly like the way he fights. I like crisp technical striking and I feel Faeez is wild. That being said, I do feel like that’s how he’s had some success so there’s no right or wrong if something’s working. I just feel like, for myself and personal preference, tidy calculated striking is way more appealing. He doesn’t have a strong wrestling or grappling game and I feel like that could play a huge factor in this fight. I do want to strike with him, but a lot of the time when I stand with people and start landing heavy shots, they initiate in grappling exchanges and if he ends up attempting to take that route; I feel like it will be an easier night than I’m expecting.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced your fights before, what should they expect?
For the people watching my fight; expect a fast-paced exciting fight. I plan on pressing forward and looking to show my level early. I have super fast hands and I hit hard. People can expect to see a slick flashy boxing style with constant pressure. I feel like I can win this fight in any area and I’m going to go there and prove it.
Is there anything you feel makes you stand out as a fighter?
I feel like my charisma and style make me stand out as a fighter. As soon as I get in the cage, people can see that I’m in there 100% and confident in my ability. I’m prepared and willing to have a gruelling fight. I feel like I have a great work ethic and my pace is what has helped me to be as successful as I’ve been up to now, and will continue to do so as I continue to climb the ladder.
EFC is based in South Africa, a long journey from your home in Sunderland, England. What led to you being a part of this promotion and are there any advantages/disadvantages of fighting so far away from home?
The advantages in my eyes are the fact I’m travelling the world doing what I love to do. I’m building my own brand on a massive stage and I’m representing Team Fish Tank on an international level. I’m gaining a lot of support and notoriety along the way. The disadvantages are the travel time, being away from my family. Apart from that, it’s really minor things like home comforts. There’s a lot less pressure fighting away from home, even though it’s on live TV and live streamed and in front of a massive crowd. Something about it just makes me feel less pressure than actually having my family and friends in the venue.
You have previously stated that you signed a 6 fight contract with EFC. The fight with Faeez Jacobs will be your second with the promotion. Would there be any contractual issues if a bigger promotion such as Bellator or UFC were interested in your signature?
My EFC contract came about because they were looking for an opponent for Gareth Buirski on short notice in Johannesburg and my coach said I would take that fight no problem and the negotiations started from there. As far as UFC or Bellator go, in my EFC contract, they have stated that I could be released to sign with those organisations. I’ve been offered 2 fights on Bellator against good opponents on short notice, to which I have accepted both times only to have the fights fall through.
The only loss on your record is to Gareth Buirski at EFC 62. The result was a split decision. Did you agree with the decision? Is a rematch with Buirski something you’d be interested in?
I would happily have a rematch with Gareth Buirski any day of the week, anytime. We tried to get the rematch and couldn’t get it. That being said, I feel like I’m above that level of fight anyway, although I believe I won convincingly. I fought terribly and I didn’t get out of first gear. If the fight were to come back around, I am confident I could finish that fight within one round. I’m not too fussed about perusing that rematch though, as I feel myself as well as 99.9% of the people who watched that fight, as well as Gareth, know that I was the clear victor.
Your camp, Team Fish Tank, has been making a lot of waves lately with the recent form of Andrew Fisher and Ryan Scope winning the BAMMA title and moving on to Bellator among others. What is the atmosphere like in the team?
The atmosphere in our gym is awesome. We have a super friendly gym and there are just good vibes constantly. It’s a constant grind and everyone there pushes each other to become the best they can be, and that’s how our team is becoming very well known. We are all constantly learning from each other and the talent on the mats on our gym day in day out is crazy. In another couple of years, we will be a very highly regarded gym in the UK if we aren’t already on our way there now.
Hanging above your gym is a banner of you alongside the other top fighters within the team. How did it feel when you found out it was being hung and is there any added pressure in being such a big representative of the team?
I don’t feel any pressure representing the team because I know how things are in our gym. Everyone knows how hard we all train and how much it means to us, and as long as I just go in there and try my best that’s all that can be asked of me. I find comfort knowing I’m representing TFT. People forget because it was such a long time ago but I was actually the first person to fight professionally out of TFT. I just took a long time out after my fight as I had a lot going on in my life and I felt like if I wasn’t fully applying myself to become the best I could be, then there was no point in me being involved. I’m an all or nothing type of person and in this game it’s either you’re fully committed or you’re not. There’s no in between, not for myself anyway. I’m super proud that there’s a banner of me in the gym. I genuinely hope that one day I can become a big enough name, that the younger fighters and kids who train at our gym or even new kids that join, can see where I came from and that if they work hard they could do it too. That’s a big ambition of mine, just to basically be a good role model. I also want to be someone my daughter can be proud of, knowing that I pursued my dreams and didn’t give up on something I was good at.
When you were 18, your parents put a birthday notice in the Sunderland Echo, telling you to enjoy your new card. When you were 21, another notice was posted telling you to enjoy Ibiza. On which birthday will we see a Sunderland Echo notice hoping that you enjoy your new UFC belt?
Haha. The UFC belt would be nice. To be honest, I would love to fight for any big organisation even if it’s not for belts. Just going to these new countries and getting to fight is huge for me. Sure titles are great, and if the opportunity to fight for one ever arises, I will certainly take the chance with both hands. But I just focus on being the best I can be. People get stuck into a pattern of thinking they need to make it to the UFC. By thinking that way I feel like they are putting unnecessary pressure on themselves. I believe goals are a big help but I think more focus should go on staying busy and exploring other routes as well. I feel if I just keep working really hard and keep trying to push for bigger fights. The big shows will come knocking. The more fights I have, the more I get to show more of my style and what I can do and gain more interest. March 31st will be no different. Expect a different Cal Ellenor when I next fight. Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions.
Catch Cal “Pacino” Ellenor battle Faeez Jacobs at EFC Worldwide 68 on www.efcworldwide.tv.